WorkWise BlogTip: Placing blame where it doesn't belong

06/24/2013 12:02 AM

06/24/2013 12:05 AM


Jim MacNee tells a story by an unknown source about an outgoing and incoming CEO ( The old congratulated the new, then whipped out three envelopes, marked successively.

“Open each one in turn only when you're faced with an insurmountable crisis," the old instructed the new.

The new CEO survived some early crises without resorting to the envelopes. However, a major crisis reminded him that his predecessor might have had some advice; so he opened the first one.

MacNee says it instructed the CEO to “blame your predecessor” – easy enough to do and more than once, especially when combined with advice from other sources. His shareholders were making money.

When he encountered a crisis that the advice couldn’t fix without sacrificing his credibility, the CEO resorted to the second envelope. It said to “blame your employees,” MacNee reports. That was the only way he could protect his job, survive the crisis and keep his shareholders happy.

He kept it up as crises arose and knew he was assigning blame to people who sometimes weren’t responsible.

The third major crisis put the company at risk. Time for the third envelope, which said to “prepare three letters,” MacNee says. “And so he did.”

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